Regardless of what your estate planning needs may be, there are a few documents that every person should have to protect their needs.
Many people think that, if they are married, the spouse is automatically permitted to make health care decisions for them in the event they are unable to make decisions for themselves. This is not the case. It is important to create a Designation of a Health Care Surrogate to decide which people you want to be able to make health care decisions on your behalf should you not be able to do so. This is a document that is used while you are alive and terminates upon your death.
In the event that, during the course of your life, a situation arises that keeps you from being able to handle your own financial affairs, a durable power of attorney allows you to name someone to assist in these matters. For example, if you are in the hospital and need your monthly bills paid, the person you designate as your power of attorney can pay bills for you until you are able to take your affairs back over. A durable power of attorney is another document that applies during your life and terminates upon your death.
The choice to remain on life support is a personal one. Some people have religious beliefs where they don’t believe in living wills, while others don’t ever want to be kept alive on machines. This document allows your family members and doctors to be aware of your wishes regarding remaining on artificial living devices should the situation arise. It is very difficult to be a family member trying to make a decision on keeping a loved one alive or letting them go. It is hard to be in the right frame of mind in doing what the individual would want, rather than acting on their own personal desire to keep someone alive. By creating a living will, you have already made your wishes known and the doctor can rely on this document and not seek guidance from a grieving family.
The ultimate question is: where do I want my assets to go when I die? If you don't have a Last Will and Testament, then the court and your loved ones do not know your wishes as to where you want your assets to be distributed upon your death. When this is the case, the State of Florida will distribute your assets based on the intestate laws in place at the time of your death. This means that your assets may or may not end up with those you wish to have them. By creating a Last Will and Testament, you are giving instruction as to how you want your assets to be distributed upon your death. By completing this document, it will still be necessary to go through the probate court — which can be time consuming and costly, and which is why a trust may be a better option for you.
Speaking with an experienced estate planning attorney at the firm of Jennifer L. Hamey, PA will allow you to determine what is best for the needs of you and your family.